Running an empire produces many nasty habits, habits that lead you to treat people, nations, assets, and the environment as objects upon which to project your own power. The US government runs such an empire. As a result, innocent people die, the environment is ravaged and funds that could have been used to meet human needs have been fed into an insatiable military industrial complex. This has long been known by the socialist left and now, with the release and publication of secret US diplomatic messages, Wikileaks has made it visible to the entire world.
The more than 250,000 messages map out the complex interconnections of a US empire managed by a murky group of diplomats, secret agents and military personnel. They document scandalous acts such as the horse-trading of human beings for diplomatic access, the plotting of the payoffs necessary after the demise of North Korea and the employing of diplomatic muscle to shield intelligence agents from criminal prosecution. All of these acts are part of the everyday reality created by US imperial dominance.
The Wikileaks documents shed particular light on the ongoing scandal surrounding the illegal prison camp operated out of Guantanamo Bay. President Barack Obama's State Department engaged in a dehumanizing game of attempting to trade prisoners for diplomatic access. For instance, a letter sent to the government of Slovenia made it clear that access to President Obama was contingent on that country accepting a Guantanamo prisoner. Similarly, US diplomats promised Belgium the ability "to attain prominence in Europe," if they accepted prisoners.
No wonder then that the Obama administration has entirely reneged on its campaign promise to close the Guantanamo facility. As if the torture that occurred there was not enough of a human rights violation, the prison's inhabitants are now pawns in a global game of horse-trading in which the US attempts to impose its will through implicit threats and the withholding of access. This gives an entirely new light to the old Marxist maxim that capitalism doesn't solve problems, it just moves them around. In this case, imperial hubris sponsored hopes that the dispersal of prisoners throughout the world might solve the massive rights violation that is Guantanamo Bay.
An episode in Germany is equally sinister and offers even more insights into how the empire operates. There, Central Intelligence Agency agents snatched up a German citizen and summarily extradited him to a jail in Afghanistan where he was detained for months. Problem is, the CIA had the right name but the wrong person. After German officials drew up arrest warrants for the responsible agents, US diplomats issued a series of sharp threats to the German government to prevent the arrests. The well-oiled machine of Imperialism went into motion. When the stealth side is threatened, the legal side comes to the rescue.
And what is the outcome of the expensive, violent and secretive operation of the US Empire? 925 million in the world people who do not have enough to eat. One out of four children - roughly 146 million - in developing countries is left underweight. 12 million children under the age of 18 in sub-Saharan Africa are orphaned because of HIV/AIDS. The global arms trade is nearly $60 billion each year. The global proliferation of nuclear weapons is growing. And, perhaps most important, while 1.2 billion people are obliged to survive on $1.25 a day, there are almost 500 billionaires worldwide. The system of US Empire serves to protect these deep inequalities of capitalism and, in the process, endangers the very existence of billions of people every day.
The latest Wikileaks revelations should be a call to action for all Americans. It is time to tear down the empire that has been created in our name. Two tasks are first and foremost. We need to create a vibrant movement to end the wars being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. No more occupations, no more military surges and no more drone attacks. Simultaneously, we must demand that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay be closed immediately. Achieving such demands will open a political space to more directly challenge the center of the military industrial complex by calling for an immediate reduction of the military budget by 50% and the closing of all US military bases abroad.
As democratic socialists, we imagine another society, where the great wealth this world produces is put to use to meet human needs. Such a world would not need the secret cloak that covers the operations of the US Empire. It would, instead, be based on notions that seem very distant from our current reality - democracy, free association and self-determination. We think that democratic socialism holds the potential to live up to these lofty ideals. Let the Wikileaks disclosures provide the motivation for you to join in this struggle.
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